Assembly Passes Legislative Package to Protect Consumers from Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Batteries After Concerning Rise in Fires

Speaker Carl Heastie announced today that the Assembly passed a package of legislation this week to strengthen consumer protections against rechargeable lithium-ion batteries found in many popular electric vehicles and devices. This set of bills comes as fire departments across the state have reported a concerning rise in fires caused by the batteries, with New York City reporting 250 battery-related fires and 18 deaths last year alone.

“These tragic deaths are highly preventable,” said Speaker Heastie. “I’m proud that this package provides the education and safety regulations needed to keep consumers safe while giving our firefighters much needed additional support.”

“This package will not only protect consumers from the dangers of poorly produced lithium-ion batteries, it will finally hold manufacturers accountable to a set of clear safety standards,” said Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee Chair Nily Rozic. “These bills will save lives and make every day items safer for all New Yorkers.”

This legislative package includes a bill (A4938-C, Dinowitz) to prohibit retailers from selling lithium-ion batteries or chargers until certain safety standards are met. While another bill will require the chargers be affixed with a tag that provides consumers with additional safety information and asks them to unplug the device when not in use (A8102-A, Eachus).

“The majority of these fires are being caused by faulty batteries manufactured by companies who have no concern for the possible danger they’re causing,” said Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz. “This bill is a step forward in providing the safety regulations firefighters and consumers need by holding retailers accountable for the products they’re selling.”

“With the rise of deadly fires being caused by misuse of lithium-ion battery chargers, primarily by those being continuously charged after being full, it is beyond important that consumers are aware of the necessary safety precautions when using these new technologies,” said Assemblymember Christopher Eachus. “By requiring manufacturers to add a bright red warning label on every charging cord, we’re providing clarity to consumers and educating them on proper handling in emergencies in hopes of preventing the tragic loss of life caused by preventable fires.”

This package directs the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to establish a lithium-ion battery rebate program to encourage and facilitate the replacement of old and possibly unsafe batteries with properly certified ones (A6811-C, Tapia).

“I’m honored to be a part of the effort to ensure New Yorkers continued safety from the dangers of lithium-ion batteries,” said Assemblymember Yudelka Tapia. “But the truth is, many of these faulty, dangerous batteries have already been sold and are in homes across our state. By instituting a trade-in option, we’re giving all residents the ability to keep their families safe from these faulty devices.”

This package also requires the Department of State, in collaboration with the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and NYSERDA, to develop safety resources and post information and protocols designed to educate the public on how to respond and deal with emergencies involving lithium-ion batteries (A9338, De Los Santos).

“New Yorkers are simply looking for guidance on how best to use their electric powered devices, and we can finally provide that,” said Assemblymember Manny De Los Santos. “This bill will give consumers the education they need to understand best-use practices and fire guidance so they can continue to keep their families safe while using their electric vehicles.”

Lastly, this package expands the specialized hazardous materials emergency response training program administered by the Office of Fire Prevention and Control (OFPC) to include guidance regarding emergency response to incidents involving lithium-ion batteries (A9337, Taylor).

“Our firefighters are quickly learning that fires caused by lithium-ion batteries require a specialized response,” said Assemblymember Al Taylor. “This new training will ensure that all our emergency responders have the tools and knowledge they need to tackle these blazes safely and effectively.”